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Achieving top-tier elite status with Delta requires a lot of butt-in-seat miles, creative use of partner airlines, or a significant amount of credit card spend. Unfortunately, Delta doesn’t allow you to make use of the status challenge path to reach Diamond Medallion, only Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The referenced four Delta co-brand cards included here each allows you to earn additional Medallion Qualifying Miles via credit card spending thresholds, and there is no restriction on holding more than one Delta Amex card outside of the traditional American Express application restrictions.
Unless you frequently travel for business, it’s unlikely you’ll hit top-tier elite status without the need to supplement your organically collected MQDs and MQMs, with those from partner airlines or co-brand credit cards. Something else to note is elite status runs by the calendar year, meaning you only have until the end of the year to collect the miles needed to reach elite status for next year.
Benefits of Delta Diamond Medallion Status
The value of Delta's elite status benefits isn’t what it used to be, but it still sits top of the pack for the three legacy carriers. Diamond Delta Benefits include:
- Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades – Complimentary Upgrades for yourself and a companion to Delta Comfort+ shortly after ticketing, to First Class beginning 120 hours (5 days) before departure, and to the domestic Delta One® experience on the day of departure
- Choice Benefits – Select three of the listed benefits
- Delta Sky Club® Membership (Individual membership = 1x Choice Benefit – Executive Membership = 2x Choice Benefits)
- Delta Sky Club Guest Pass (with Credit Card Access) – If you currently receive complimentary Sky Club access via a Delta co-brand credit card, a Sky Club Guest Pass will gain unlimited complimentary access for up to 2x guests per visit
- Global & Regional Upgrade Certificates – 4x Global OR 8x Regional OR 2x Global AND 4x Regional
- Two Global Entry Application Vouchers (valued at up to $100 each)
- Gift Gold Medallion Status to a friend or family member
- 25,000 bonus miles for yourself, someone else, or a SkyWish charity of your choice
- A $200 Delta travel gift card
- A $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card
- Earn 11x miles per dollar – On Delta and select partner purchases
- Unlimited Rollover MQMs – Any MQMs earned over and above that needed for Medallion Tier qualification will rollover to the next year
- Complimentary CLEAR membership – valued at $179 per year
- Premium Boarding along with First Class or Delta One cabins
- Sky Priority® including priority check-in and security line access, and expedited baggage services
- Waived Fees for Bags and Ticket Changes
- Waived change fees for Award Travel
- First checked bag free for you and up to 8 companions when traveling on a Delta flight, and just for yourself when flying partners
- Waived Same-Day Confirmed Fees
- Waived Same-Day Standby Fees
- SkyTeam Elite Plus status when flying on SkyTeam partner airlines
- President’s Circle® Status in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards®
Earning Requirements for Delta Diamond Medallion Status
To earn Delta Diamond Medallion Status requires a combination of qualifying miles or segments, and meeting a qualifying spending requirement on Delta and partner airlines, or achieving the spending waiver via a colossal $250K in Delta co-brand credit card spend.
- 125,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs)
- $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) or reaching the $250,000 MQD Waiver via co-brand credit card spend
You can earn MQMs via four of Delta’s seven co-brand credit cards, two of which currently offer increased welcome bonuses:
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – Earn 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs)
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs)
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express – Earn 35,000 Bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) (Terms Apply)
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) (Terms Apply)
Each card also offers bonus MQMs at specific spending thresholds which we detail below, allowing you to collect the majority portion of the required MQMs through credit card spend if you can’t achieve them through butt in seat miles. The $250,000 MQD Waiver is an astronomical amount, particularly when compared to the $25K waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status, but it only exceeds the spend required to collect 125,000 MQMs each year by $30,000.
Earn Delta Diamond Medallion Status Without Flying
You can earn Diamond Medallion Status without flying, although it requires an annual credit card spend beyond the reach of the average points and miles fan, carrying an astronomical opportunity cost when you factor in the number of new card bonuses and rewards points $250K in credit card spend could net over the same period. The ‘how to’ takes some extra work to wrap your head around, in addition to an extensive round of Delta co-brand card applications. We’ve included the calculations for earning the required MQMs as well, as you can achieve the 125K MQMs needed to reach Diamond Medallion while swiping your way to the $250K MQD Waiver.
If you apply for both Reserve cards and the Platinum cards, and complete the minimum spend requirements on all cards, you’ll net 30,000 MQMs. You’ll also collect another 100,000 MQM if you hit the highest spending thresholds on all four cards for a total of 130,000 MQMs
- Platinum Delta Amex – 5K MQM (welcome bonus) + 10K MQM ($25K spending threshold) + 10K MQM ($50K spending threshold) = 25K
- Business Platinum Delta Amex – 5K MQM (welcome bonus) + 10K MQM ($25K spending threshold) + 10K MQM ($50K spending threshold) = 25K
- Delta Reserve – 10K MQM (welcome bonus) + 15K MQM ($30K spending threshold) + 15K MQM ($60K spending threshold) = 40K
- Business Delta Reserve – 10K MQM (welcome bonus) + 15K MQM ($30K spending threshold) + 15K MQM ($60K spending threshold) = 40K
Not only will this method hit the 125,000 MQM needed to earn Diamond, but you will also rollover 10K MQM towards next year’s Medallion status chase. You’ll spend a minimum $220,000 accumulating the required MQMs if you try and achieve elite status without flying, just $30K shy of the quarter-million dollars in credit card spend needed to hit the MQD Waiver. If your annual credit card spending is high enough to cover the $220,000 needed to earn 130,000 MQMs via credit card spend, that extra $30K isn’t likely to present a considerable obstacle.
Leverage SkyTeam Partners to Earn Accelerated MQMs & MQDs
One of the most effective ways of achieving Diamond Medallion status without needing to drop $15,000 with Delta, is leveraging Delta’s partner agreements. Following the move to revenue-based mileage earning on DL-coded flights, Delta adjusted its partner mileage earning rates at the start of 2018. The new earning rates favor those folks that can uncover discount business-class fares, particularly on airlines in which Delta has a financial interest.
Take, for example, Air France. The best approach is to find a discounted long-haul business or first-class ticket, even more so if you can leverage multi-city itineraries, and you’ll earn 200% of the physical miles flown as MQMs, and 40% of the physical miles flown as MQDs. Here's a quick example:
If you find an Air France ticketed flight for $2,000 that books into a Z-fare (discounted business class fare), and that total distance flown for that itinerary is 12,000 miles, by entering your Delta SkyMiles number on the ticket/reservation you will earn:
- 24,000 Redeemable SkyMiles (12,000 base miles + 12,000 class bonus miles)
- 18,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (12,000 base MQM + 50% bonus of 6,000 MQM)
- $4,800 Medallion Qualification Dollars (40% of 12,000 miles is 4,800)
- Note: The actual cost of the ticket is completely irrelevant for earning Delta SkyMiles in this case, as you're on an Air France ticket, flying an Air France aircraft.
That $4,800 MQD gets you almost 1/3 of the way to meeting the Delta Diamond MQD requirement. Flying Delta’s partner airlines can be a lucrative exercise with the right itinerary.
It’s important to check which partners payout MQM and MQD, as not all partners award them. Even one of SkyTeam’s founding partners, Korean Air, with whom Delta has pretty deep connections (including a joint venture in the pipeline), awards no MQM or MQD.
Below is an example with AeroMexico where you can see the bonus MQMs and MQDs earned – This was a discounted business class ticket purchased for $1,100 through Expedia.com:
Receive MQMs From Friends & Family to Achieve Diamond Medallion Status
While this method isn’t likely to be the first approach for most of those chasing Medallion status, it allows you to utilize MQMs earned by friends or family on their Delta Reserve cards when they reach spending thresholds. As per Delta’s website:
“MQMs can be kept by the Basic Card Member or gifted to someone else. MQM gift recipients must have a valid SkyMiles account. If within 90 days an MQM recipient is not designated, the MQMs will be deposited in the Basic Card Member's SkyMiles account.”
Is It Worth Chasing Elite Status?
While all the above is technically possible, it begs the question; is it all worth it?
There are arguments both ways. While it gives those with a high annual credit card spend the opportunity to leverage that spend into top-tier elite status with Delta. If you don’t fly enough to earn elite status organically, it’s unlikely you’ll make full use of the benefits. You’re likely better off leveraging different credit card combos to double or triple your earned rewards, and burn those points on business and first-class award tickets, which grant you most of the same privileges during your journey. It also allows you to be a free agent, and give your business to the airline offering the best value, rather than the one on which you have top-tier status.
Chasing elite airline status is an almost surefire way of inducing non-rational behavior in those doing the chasing, with punters likely to spend much more than they otherwise would if they were not to worry about elite status.
Gaining top-tier elite status also tends to lock you into a single alliance, as you’re intent on taking advantage of the elite status benefits you’ve spent so much time, effort, and money earning. It’s also worth noting that many premium rewards cards offer top-tier elite benefits. For instance, The Platinum Card® from American Express grants access to Delta Sky Club when you have a same-day Delta boarding pass.
Whether you believe top-tier Medallion status is worth chasing or not is your call. With determination, patience, and a hefty annual credit card spend, you can shoot for Delta Diamond Medallion status without earning the required MQMs and MQDs via traditional means. By leveraging Delta co-brand credit cards, and the ability to accelerate mileage earning capacity flying Delta’s partners, you can achieve Diamond Medallion via spending alone. Remember to calculate the opportunity cost of chasing top-tier status vs. utilizing that spend for earning transferable points.
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